Here's how it works: You buy the basic P90X® kit for $120 (it includes the DVDs, a workout guide and a calendar to track your progress), snag some resistance bands and find a place to do pull-ups (the gym, your local park, a built-in bar in your home—or one you purchase and install). The program alternates between 12 intense workouts that combine to create what Tony Horton, the creator of P90X®, calls "muscle confusion"—in other words, it's a form of cross training that switches up movements to avoid plateaus. The workouts include everything from plyometrics and yoga (just don't expect to get too Zen; this isn't a program for relaxation) to cardio and resistance exercises.
So what's the bottom line? Should you try it? Here's what pros and participants have to say:
P90X workout pros: Women especially benefit from the resistance exercises in the P90X® program, says exercise physiologist Marco Borges. "The workout consists of light weight in explosive bursts," he says. "Women typically stay away from weights for fear of bulking up, so here you have a program taking advantage of resistance training with low weights in a fun and exciting way that doesn't get boring." Borges says that the benefits of the P90X® workout include increased strength, endurance and speed, as well as improved balance, coordination and muscle tone.
Fabio Comana, M.A., M.S., an American Council on Exercise–certified exercise physiologist and spokesperson, says that the primary benefit of the P90X® program could be calories burned (although the jury's still out on just how many calories the P90X® workout burns per hour). "While P90X® exercises vary between targeting strength, power, hypertrophy and endurance, they also incorporate high work rates, which results in more calories burned, and thus, weight loss," says Comana. He adds that women who stick with the P90X® program will also likely notice increased muscle definition.
So where is this definition exactly? Pretty much everywhere. The P90X® program is a full-body workout, so you can expect to look and feel toned all over. You may especially notice definition in your arms and abs (although expect sore leg muscles, too!).
P90X workout cons: Beware of plugs for P90X nutritional supplements, says Comana. "Regardless of how safe they think their dietary programs and products are, people need to recognize that supplements are not regulated by the FDA."
Comana also says that the P90X® program doesn't spend a lot of time teaching proper technique. He sees that as a problem, since many of the exercises include lower-body movements (such as squats, dead lifts and lunges) that can be especially dangerous for women if they're not done properly. "It concerns me given the high incidence of knee injuries in women," he says. He also suggests that some of the workouts are too advanced for the average person. So what can you do? Comana suggests working with a qualified trainer who can teach you how to do each exercise properly to avoid injury.
"A friend of mine tried the P90X® workout and saw great results, so I decided to try it," says Sarah, 26, of Los Angeles. "After a week of doing it, I definitely feel sore, especially in my legs. Maybe that means it's working? As far as the workouts go, some of them are easy to follow, but I only made it through the first 30 minutes of the plyometrics," she says. Sarah's not letting the difficulty discourage her. "I'm letting myself modify some of the workouts or shorten them if I need to. I'm in decent shape, so I thought this wouldn't be a big deal for me, but maybe I'm more of a beginner than I thought!"
"I'm not going to lie, I didn't enjoy the P90X® workout at first," says Renee, 30, of New York City. "But I stuck with it, and started to see changes a month after I started—as in, an inch off my waistline. I think the key is to find the workouts you like. Some of them I looked forward to, like the yoga workout, while others I just sort of ‘got through.' I've completed the first 90 days of the program and I've got to say, I feel a lot stronger and I'm more flexible now." Renee's advice for beginners? "Definitely eat enough a couple hours before you put in those DVDs," she says. "You'll feel lightheaded if you don't. Trust me, the P90X® workout is intense!"